Shirley Jo Finney, director of the Fountain Theatre’s multiple award-winning production of In the Red and Brown Water in 2012, returns to direct the second play in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “Brother/Sister Plays” trilogy. The Los Angeles premiere of The Brothers Size opens June 7 at the Fountain for a limited engagement that must close July 27.
Set on the back-roads of the Louisiana bayou, The Brothers Size follows the path of the recently paroled Oshoosi Size (Matthew Hancock) as he seeks to jumpstart his life. Working in an auto repair shop for his brother Ogun (Gilbert Glenn Brown), however, was not what he had in mind. When his old friend Elegba (Theo Perkins) rolls up, offering a different direction, Oshoosi quickly finds himself torn between his brother, his loyalties and his dreams. It’s an exuberantly theatrical drama that weaves together the pulsing rhythms of the bayou with African Yoruba mythology to create a stylized story of love and heartache. While part two of McCraney’s trilogy stands alone – you don’t need any knowledge of the first (In the Red and Brown Water) or third (Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet) to enjoy The Brothers Size – the three plays exist in the same world. Set in the fictional Louisiana bayou town of San Pere, in what McCraney calls “the distant present,” they share themes, characters and similar theatrical conventions. Dreams seep into waking life.
“Whose dream is it?” asks Finney, who received Ovation and Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle directing awards for her work on In the Red and Brown Water. “The world of this play is set somewhere between waking and sleep and between the conscious and unconscious, in the blue-gray world where the spirit lies and heaven and earth intersect. It’s about transformation, sacrifice and brotherly love.”
“I began taking old stories from the canon of the Yoruba and splicing them, placing them down in a mythological housing project in the South,” said McCraney in an interview. “The ritual onstage is taking these very old stories, archetypes, myths, and even rumors, and playing them out with new voices, new bodies, set in new and present times.”
The character names in the “Brothers Size” invoke Yoruba “orishas,” or deities: Ogun is the god of iron-working, the patron deity of all those who use metal in their occupations. Oshoosi is the divine hunter associated with the human struggle for survival – cunning, intelligent and cautious. Elegba is the guardian of the crossroads of life, but is also well known for being the orisha of chaos and trickery who leads mortals into temptation.
The Fountain’s highly lauded L.A. premiere of the trilogy’s opener, In the Red and Brown Water, was named “Best in Theater, 2012” by the Los Angeles Times, one of the “10 Most Memorable Theater Moments of 2012” by the LA Weekly and “best of Los Angeles Theater 2012” by Bitter Lemons, the website that aggregates Los Angeles theater reviews.
Shirley Jo Finney was honored for her directing work on In the Red and Brown Water with Ovation (her second) and LADCC awards. Her other Fountain credits include acclaimed productions of Heart Song, The Ballad of Emmett Till, Yellowman, Central Avenue and From the Mississippi Delta. In November, she directed Marcus Gardley’s the road weeps the well runs dry in a rolling world premiere at LATC. Her work has been seen at the McCarter Theater, Pasadena Playhouse, Goodman Theater, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Cleveland Playhouse, L.A. Theatre Works, Crossroads Theater Company, Actors Theater of Louisville Humana Festival, Mark Taper Forum, American College Theatre Festival, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and at the State Theater in Pretoria, South Africa, where she helmed a critically acclaimed production of the South African opera, Winnie, based on the life of political icon Winnie Mandela. For television, she directed several episodes of Moesha, and she garnered the International Black Filmmakers ‘Best Director’ Award for her short film, Remember Me. She is the recipient of the African American Film Marketplace Award of Achievement for Outstanding Performance and Achievement and leader in Entertainment.
Gilbert Glenn Brown and Theodore Perkins both return to the Fountain, after appearing in the award-winning ‘In The Red and Brown Water’. Matthew Hancock was most recently seen in the Los Angeles Premiere of ‘the road weeps the well runs dry’ at LA Theatre Center, also directed by Finney.